Commentaries on Genesis

The Book of Genesis Chapters 1-17
(New International Commentary on the Old Testament)
Victor P. Hamilton
Eerdmans, 1990
522 pages, list $45, typically $30

Also by the same author: The Book of Genesis Chapters 18-50 (Eerdmans, 1995)

This is a openly evangelical series, which appears to mean, mostly, that the author is willing to think that the text might have some sacred meaning. He is no defender of a simplistic literalism, but pushes to find positive meanings for the texts. Not reductionistic (no extreme form criticism here). This is probably my current favorite.


Reading Genesis after Darwin
Stephen C. Barton, David Wilkinson
Oxford 2009
252 pages, list $25, typically $20

A collection of essays exploring what it means to read Genesis in a modern context.


(Brazos Theological Commentary on the Bible)
R. R. Reno
Brazos, 2010
300 pages

Comments selectively on verses and topics in Genesis. Aims at the discussion of the meaning and use of the text rather than simply commentary.


Genesis 1-11: A Commentary
(Continental Commentary)
Claus Westermann
Augsburg, 1974
632 pages

For those looking for the big, classic commentary, this three volume set, should still be on your list. Translated from German, and it is now 30 years old, and so not always reflective of literary concerns, for example. But that painstakingly detailed examination is something all of us true commentary lovers appreciate.


The JPS Torah Commentary: Genesis
(Jewish Publication Society)
Nahum M. Sarna
Jewish Publication Society, 1989
413 pages, list $65, typically $40

Many Christians are excited to engage with the richness of Jewish scholarship. Not speaking Hebrew, and not understanding how the rabbinic material is organized, we need someone to guide us through. Unfortunately, the JPS series is a bit of a disappointment, at least to me. While certainly a worthwhile book, it just doesn't give the depth of coverage that we expect. What is there is good, but it doesn't have space to spread out and explore.


A Handbook on Genesis
(UBS Handbook Series)
William Reyburn & E. McG. Fry
United Bible Societies, 1997

This work is, as the title indicates, intended to help those translating the Bible into other languages. Thus, it focuses on issues of precise translation: how do you translate "sheep" if the society doesn't have sheep, or, equally serious, regards them or shepherding very differently than the culture of the Bible. So, it isn't a 'commentary' in the sense of dealing with theological issues, but it is an often helpful (and intriguing!) specialty study.

Reading this or any volume is a fascinating study in the slipperiness of language and a good antidote to people thumping away on the King James Version.

Last updated 12/12/10; posted 2/24/07; original content © 2010, 2007 John P. Nordin